Is deprivation in Dewsbury acceptable in the seventh richest country in the world?
Official figures revealed recently that some areas of Dewsbury featured in the top thousand most deprived areas in Britain. I would say this came as a shock to me, but sadly this is what many towns, particularly in northern England have come to accept as the norm.
Dewsbury has been left behind and neglected under this government, as have many northern towns. The Chancellor’s rhetoric of a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ has been one of the biggest cons of the Conservative’s general election manifesto. The deprivation figures are hard evidence that all he is creating is a ‘Northern Poorhouse’.
I have had many constituents visit my office since being elected who are desperate. People with disabilities having all income cut off through not being able to get to assessments as far afield as Manchester. Families being forced to move out of their homes or face financial penalties because they have the audacity to have a spare bedroom. Not to mention the anticipation of the impending tax credit cuts to be inflicted next May, where many working families stand to lose thousands of pounds a year.
In July I voted against the government’s welfare bill and I welcome that the new Labour leadership has taken this stance and that we voted as a party to oppose the bill in September.
Some may simply say that getting people into work is the answer. Unfortunately our town is being starved of investment, with the government playing politics with devolution and decisions on transport infrastructure and as a result Dewsbury suffers and fails to grow and provide the jobs required. The figures are more concerning in other ways too. Many of those below the poverty line are actually in work, the governments so called ‘strivers’. It is mainly those in work who will lose out financially with the impending tax credit cuts. The combination of these cuts and the Chancellor’s so called ‘living wage’ set to come into force in May, is doing no more than giving with one hand and taking away more with the other, leaving many more families struggling to pay their bills and provide a decent standard of living for their children.
But on top of jobs, wages and benefits the government fails to address the other huge contributor to deprivation - the lack of affordable housing. Private sector rents are spiralling out of control with rents on average £1000 more than in 2010. Despite this David Cameron plans to sell off more and more social housing stock at knock down prices. History shows that this is false economy, with former social housing falling into the hands of private landlords who are able to charge exorbitant rents and push up the housing benefits bill.
For many in Dewsbury, home ownership is an impossible dream. With average first time buyer deposits ranging between £16,000 & £20,000 based on research from Yorkshire Building Society. David Cameron announced at Conservative conference last week his new starter home plan, a scheme aimed at helping the younger generation get on the housing ladder as opposed to renting. However research from the housing charity Shelter suggests that in 98% of local authorities, those earning George Osborne’s so called ‘Living Wage’ would not be able to afford one of these starter homes. For many generations rip-off rent will continue.
In the seventh richest country in the world is it right that people in Dewsbury are suffering from deprivation and poverty? Of course it isn’t. The Government need to stop patronising us with terms such as ‘Northern Powerhouse’ and wake up to the harsh realities of severe deprivation in northern towns and cities caused as result of their policies.